The History of DNA

On Saturday, Feb. 28, 1953, New York Times, in an ironically understated setting for such an ultimately world reknown and Nobel Prize winning reveal, scientists Watson and Crick announced during lunch at the English pub the Eagle, that they had discovered the secret of life. However, the necessary foundation had long been established, before the scientific work on the structural properties of the double helix brought DNA to the spotlight of the mainstream.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was discovered in the late 1860s by Friedrich Miescher. It probably comes as a surprise to most, that it was Swiss chemist Miescher who first identified the ingredients for human life. Most people associate the momentous finding with the famous American biologist and English physicist, James Watson and Francis Crick, mistakenly giving them credit for DNA’s discovery; but their contribution didn’t arrive on the scientific scene until decades later.

In 1869 Miescher discovered DNA, which he initially named nuclein. With an astute, scientifically trained eye, while attempting to investigate the chemical makeup of white blood cells , he noticed something significant. It was a unique substance that did not resemble previously examined protiens.

Miescher’s unique substance that he called nuclein received little notice over the years except by scientists studying the molecule and subsequently adding further knowledge to the initial find.

Learn more about James Watson and Francis Crick’s contribution to the DNA story